Who are the most influential thinkers in world?
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Note: These rankings change dynamically as our artificial intelligence system learns new things and incorporates new publications and citations. Academics are constantly doing research and publishing new insights, with the result that our measure of influence is subject to continual adjustments. For quality assurance reasons, however, we forgo real-time changes, with most public updates happening only quarterly. In any case, don’t be surprised to see our rankings change over time.Methodology: How and Why We Rank by Influence …
7 BC - 30 (37 years)
Jesus , also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity, the world's largest religion. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited messiah , in the Old Testament.
1225 - 1274 (49 years)
Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. An immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, he is also known within the latter as the , the , and the . The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, Italy. Among other things, he was a prominent proponent of natural theology and the father of a school of thought known as Thomism. He argued that God is the source of both the light of natural reason and the light of faith. His influence on W...
1483 - 1546 (63 years)
Martin Luther, was a German professor of theology, priest, author, composer, Augustinian monk, and a seminal figure in the Reformation. Luther was ordained to the priesthood in 1507. He came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church; in particular, he disputed the view on indulgences. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517. His refusal to renounce all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his exc...
354 - 430 (76 years)
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Saint Augustine, was a theologian, philosopher, and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia, Roman North Africa. His writings influenced the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity, and he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers of the Latin Church in the Patristic Period. His many important works include The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, and Confessions.
185 - 254 (69 years)
Origen of Alexandria , also known as Origen Adamantius, was an early Christian scholar, ascetic, and theologian who was born and spent the first half of his career in Alexandria. He was a prolific writer who wrote roughly 2,000 treatises in multiple branches of theology, including textual criticism, biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, homiletics, and spirituality. He was one of the most influential figures in early Christian theology, apologetics, and asceticism. He has been described as "the greatest genius the early church ever produced".
1509 - 1564 (55 years)
John Calvin was a French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism, including its doctrines of predestination and of God's absolute sovereignty in the salvation of the human soul from death and eternal damnation. Calvinist doctrines were influenced by and elaborated upon the Augustinian and other Christian traditions. Various Congregational, Reformed and Presbyterian churches, which look to Calvin as the chief expositor of their beliefs, have spread thro...
5 - 67 (62 years)
Paul the Apostle , commonly known as Saint Paul and also known by his Hebrew name Saul of Tarsus, was a Christian apostle who spread the teachings of Jesus in the first-century world. Generally regarded as one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age, he founded several Christian communities in Asia Minor and Europe from the mid-30s to the mid-50s AD.
1138 - 1204 (66 years)
Moses ben Maimon , commonly known as Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam , was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician, serving as the personal physician of Saladin. Born in Córdoba, Almoravid Empire on Passover eve, 1138 , he worked as a rabbi, physician and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. He died in Egypt on 12 December 1204, whence his body was taken to the lower Galilee and buried in Tiberias.
345 - 420 (75 years)
Jerome , also known as Jerome of Stridon, was a Latin priest, confessor, theologian, and historian; he is commonly known as Saint Jerome.Jerome was born at Stridon, a village near Emona on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia. He is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin and his commentaries on the whole Bible. Jerome attempted to create a translation of the Old Testament based on a Hebrew version, rather than the Septuagint, as Latin Bible translations used to be performed before him. His list of writings is extensive, and beside his Biblical works, he wrote polemical ...
130 - 202 (72 years)
Irenaeus was a Greek bishop noted for his role in guiding and expanding Christian communities in what is now the south of France and, more widely, for the development of Christian theology by combating heresy and defining orthodoxy. Originating from Smyrna, he had seen and heard the preaching of Polycarp, who in turn was said to have heard John the Evangelist, and thus was the last known living connection with the Apostles,
155 - 220 (65 years)
Tertullian was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He was the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He was an early Christian apologist and a polemicist against heresy, including contemporary Christian Gnosticism. Tertullian has been called "the father of Latin Christianity" and "the founder of Western theology."
1805 - 1844 (39 years)
Joseph Smith Jr. was an American religious leader and founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement. When he was 24, Smith published the Book of Mormon. By the time of his death, 14 years later, he had attracted tens of thousands of followers and founded a religion that continues to the present with millions of global adherents.
1886 - 1968 (82 years)
Karl Barth was a Swiss Calvinist theologian who is most well known for his landmark commentary The Epistle to the Romans , his involvement in the Confessing Church, and authorship of the Barmen Declaration, and especially his unfinished multi-volume theological summa the Church Dogmatics . Barth's influence expanded well beyond the academic realm to mainstream culture, leading him to be featured on the cover of Time on 20 April 1962.
1813 - 1855 (42 years)
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic, and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote critical texts on organized religion, Christendom, morality, ethics, psychology, and the philosophy of religion, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony, and parables. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. He was against lite...
1898 - 1963 (65 years)
Clive Staples Lewis was a British writer and lay theologian. He held academic positions in English literature at both Oxford University and Cambridge University . He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.
265 - 339 (74 years)
Eusebius of Caesarea , also known as Eusebius Pamphili , was a historian of Christianity, exegete, and Christian polemicist. He became the bishop of Caesarea Maritima about AD 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the biblical canon and is regarded as one of the most learned Christians of his time. He wrote Demonstrations of the Gospel, Preparations for the Gospel and On Discrepancies between the Gospels, studies of the biblical text. As "Father of Church History" , he produced the Ecclesiastical History, On the Life of Pamphilus, the Chronicle and On the Martyrs. He also produced
150 - 215 (65 years)
Titus Flavius Clemens, also known as Clement of Alexandria , was a Christian theologian and philosopher who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Among his pupils were Origen and Alexander of Jerusalem. A convert to Christianity, he was an educated man who was familiar with classical Greek philosophy and literature. As his three major works demonstrate, Clement was influenced by Hellenistic philosophy to a greater extent than any other Christian thinker of his time, and in particular, by Plato and the Stoics. His secret works, which exist only in fragments, suggest that he was famil
1918 - 2018 (100 years)
William Franklin Graham Jr. was an American evangelist, a prominent evangelical Christian figure, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister who became well known internationally in the late 1940s. One of his biographers has placed him "among the most influential Christian leaders" of the 20th century.
Mary Magdalene, sometimes called Mary of Magdala, or simply the Magdalene or the Madeleine, was a woman who, according to the four canonical gospels, traveled with Jesus as one of his followers and was a witness to his crucifixion and its aftermath. She is mentioned by name twelve times in the canonical gospels, more than most of the apostles and more than any other woman in the gospels, other than Jesus's family. Mary's epithet Magdalene may mean that she came from the town of Magdala, a fishing town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee in Roman Judea.
100 - 165 (65 years)
Justin Martyr was an early Christian apologist and philosopher.Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue did survive. The First Apology, his most well-known text, passionately defends the morality of the Christian life, and provides various ethical and philosophical arguments to convince the Roman emperor, Antoninus, to abandon the persecution of the Church. Further, he also indicates, as St. Augustine would later, regarding the "true religion" that predated Christianity, that the "seeds of Christianity" actually predated Christ's incarnation. This notion allows him to cla...
1891 - 1956 (65 years)
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar , venerated as Babasaheb , was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer, who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables . He was British India's Minister of Labour in Viceroy's Executive Council, Chairman of the Constituent Drafting committee, independent India's first Minister of Law and Justice, and considered the chief architect of the Constitution of India.
1632 - 1677 (45 years)
Baruch Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Sephardi origin. One of the early thinkers of the Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism, including modern conceptions of the self and the universe, he came to be considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy. Inspired by the groundbreaking ideas of René Descartes, Spinoza became a leading philosophical figure of the Dutch Golden Age. Spinoza's given name, which means "Blessed", varies among different languages. In Hebrew, his full name is written . In the Netherlands he used the Portuguese name . In his Latin an...
1040 - 1105 (65 years)
Shlomo Yitzchaki , today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud and commentary on the Hebrew Bible . Acclaimed for his ability to present the basic meaning of the text in a concise and lucid fashion, Rashi appeals to both learned scholars and beginner students, and his works remain a centerpiece of contemporary Jewish study. His commentary on the Talmud, which covers nearly all of the Babylonian Talmud , has been included in every edition of the Talmud since its first printing by Daniel Bomberg in the 1520s. His...
1895 - 1987 (92 years)
Cornelius Van Til was a Dutch-American Calvinist philosopher and theologian, who is credited as being the originator of modern presuppositional apologetics.Biography Van Til was the sixth son of Ite van Til, a dairy farmer, and his wife Klasina van der Veen. At the age of ten, he moved with his family to Highland, Indiana. He was the first of his family to receive a higher education. In 1914 he attended Calvin Preparatory School, graduated from Calvin College, and attended one year at Calvin Theological Seminary, where he studied under Louis Berkhof, but he transferred to Princeton Theologic...
1768 - 1834 (66 years)
Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher was a German Reformed theologian, philosopher, and biblical scholar known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant Christianity. He also became influential in the evolution of higher criticism, and his work forms part of the foundation of the modern field of hermeneutics. Because of his profound effect on subsequent Christian thought, he is often called the "Father of Modern Liberal Theology" and is considered an early leader in liberal Christianity. The neo-orthodoxy movement of the twentieth century,
1953 - Present (68 years)
Alister E. McGrath was born on January 23, 1953 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. After studying at Methodist College Belfast, McGrath earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Wadham College, Oxford, in 1975. He pursued graduate research in science while also studying theology, and earned a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics in 1977. He was later ordained as an Anglican priest and awarded a B.D. from Oxford in 1983 and a doctorate in divinity in 2001. He also later earned a third doctorate from Oxford, a D.Litt., in 2013 for his work on science and religion.
349 - 407 (58 years)
John Chrysostom was an important Early Church Father who served as archbishop of Constantinople. He is known for his preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, his fanatical anti-Semitism and the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, and his ascetic sensibilities. The epithet means "golden-mouthed" in Greek and denotes his celebrated eloquence. Chrysostom was among the most prolific authors in the early Christian Church, although both Origen of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo exceeded Chrysostom.
1886 - 1965 (79 years)
Paul Johannes Tillich was a German-American Christian existentialist philosopher and Lutheran Protestant theologian who is widely regarded as one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. Tillich taught at a number of universities in Germany before immigrating to the United States in 1933, where he taught at Union Theological Seminary, Harvard Divinity School, and the University of Chicago.
306 - 373 (67 years)
Ephrem the Syrian , also known as Saint Ephrem, Ephrem of Edessa or Aprem of Nisibis, was a prominent Christian theologian and writer, who is revered as one of the most notable hymnographers of Eastern Christianity. He was born in Nisibis, served as a deacon and later lived in Edessa.
335 - 395 (60 years)
Gregory of Nyssa, also known as Gregory Nyssen , was bishop of Nyssa from 372 to 376 and from 378 until his death. He is venerated as a saint in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism. Gregory, his elder brother Basil of Caesarea, and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus are collectively known as the Cappadocian Fathers.
1642 - 1727 (85 years)
Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author who is widely recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians and most influential scientists of all time. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica , first published in 1687, established classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing infinitesimal calculus.
1884 - 1976 (92 years)
Rudolf Karl Bultmann was a German Lutheran theologian and professor of the New Testament at the University of Marburg. He was one of the major figures of early-20th-century biblical studies. A prominent critic of liberal theology, Bultmann instead argued for an existentialist interpretation of the New Testament. His hermeneutical approach to the New Testament led him to be a proponent of dialectical theology.
1623 - 1662 (39 years)
Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, philosopher, writer and Catholic theologian.He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen. Pascal's earliest mathematical work was on conic sections; he wrote a significant treatise on the subject of projective geometry at the age of 16. He later corresponded with Pierre de Fermat on probability theory, strongly influencing the development of modern economics and social science. In 1642, while still a teenager, he started some pioneering work on calculating machines , establishing him as one of th...
1757 - 1827 (70 years)
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his life, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual art of the Romantic Age. What he called his prophetic works were said by 20th-century critic Northrop Frye to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language". His visual artistry led 21st-century critic Jonathan Jones to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced". In 2002, Blake was placed at number 38 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greates
1955 - Present (66 years)
Ehrman was born in 1955 in Lawrence, Kansas. He received a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in 1978. He then went on to study at Princeton Seminary, where he obtained a master of divinity in 1981 and a PhD in 1985. His doctoral dissertation was awarded magna cum laude. Ehrman is currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
1915 - 1968 (53 years)
Thomas Merton was an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion. On May 26, 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name "Father Louis". He was a member of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, near Bardstown, Kentucky, living there from 1941 to his death.
296 - 373 (77 years)
Athanasius I of Alexandria , also called Athanasius the Great, Athanasius the Confessor or, primarily in the Coptic Orthodox Church, Athanasius the Apostolic, was the 20th bishop of Alexandria . His intermittent episcopacy spanned 45 years , of which over 17 encompassed five exiles, when he was replaced on the order of four different Roman emperors. Athanasius was a Christian theologian, a Church Father, the chief defender of Trinitarianism against Arianism, and a noted Coptic Christian leader of the fourth century.
1801 - 1890 (89 years)
John Henry Newman was an English theologian, scholar and poet, first an Anglican priest and later a Catholic priest and cardinal, who was an important and controversial figure in the religious history of England in the 19th century. He was known nationally by the mid-1830s, and was canonised as a saint in the Catholic Church in 2019.
1265 - 1308 (43 years)
John Duns , commonly called Duns Scotus , was a Scottish Catholic priest and Franciscan friar, university professor, philosopher, and theologian. He is one of the four most important philosopher-theologians of Western Europe in the High Middle Ages, together with Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, and William of Ockham. Scotus has had considerable influence on both Catholic and secular thought. The doctrines for which he is best known are the "univocity of being", that existence is the most abstract concept we have, applicable to everything that exists; the formal distinction, a way of distinguishi
1033 - 1109 (76 years)
Anselm of Canterbury , also called after his birthplace and after his monastery, was an Italian Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher and theologian of the Catholic Church, who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. After his death, he was canonized as a saint; his feast day is 21 April.
1827 - 1915 (88 years)
Ellen Gould White was an American author and co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Along with other Adventist leaders such as Joseph Bates and her husband James White, she was instrumental within a small group of early Adventists who formed what became known as the Seventh-day Adventist Church. White is considered a leading figure in American vegetarian history. The Smithsonian magazine named Ellen G. White among the "100 Most Significant Americans of All Time." White's writings still influence people today.
315 - 403 (88 years)
Epiphanius of Salamis was the bishop of Salamis, Cyprus at the end of the 4th century. He is considered a saint and a Church Father by both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. He gained a reputation as a strong defender of orthodoxy. He is best known for composing the Panarion, a very large compendium of the heresies up to his own time, full of quotations that are often the only surviving fragments of suppressed texts. According to Ernst Kitzinger, he "seems to have been the first cleric to have taken up the matter of Christian religious images as a major issue", and there has been much
1906 - 1945 (39 years)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity's role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship is described as a modern classic.
1703 - 1758 (55 years)
Jonathan Edwards was an American revivalist preacher, philosopher and Congregationalist theologian. Edwards is widely regarded as one of America's most important and original philosophical theologians. Edwards' theological work is broad in scope, but rooted in the pedobaptist Puritan heritage as exemplified in the Westminster and Savoy Confessions of Faith. Recent studies have emphasized how thoroughly Edwards grounded his life's work on conceptions of beauty, harmony, and ethical fittingness, and how central The Enlightenment was to his mindset. Edwards played a critical role in shaping the
1915 - 1973 (58 years)
Alan Wilson Watts was an English writer and speaker known for interpreting and popularising Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, England, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. He received a master's degree in theology from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and became an Episcopal priest in 1945. He left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.
1949 - Present (72 years)
William Lane Craig was born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1949. He earned a B.A. from Wheaton College, and pursued graduate work at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the philosophy of religion. His earned his doctorate in 1977 at the University of Birmingham, England, with work on the cosmological argument for God’s existence under the supervision of John Hick. He pursued postdoctoral work under the direction of Wolfhart Pannenberg at the Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität München in Germany, where he earned a doctorate in theology in 1984.
1714 - 1770 (56 years)
George Whitefield , also known as George Whitfield, was an Anglican cleric and evangelist who was one of the founders of Methodism and the evangelical movement.Born in Gloucester, he matriculated at Pembroke College at the University of Oxford in 1732. There he joined the "Holy Club" and was introduced to the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, with whom he would work closely in his later ministry. Whitefield was ordained after receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree. He immediately began preaching, but he did not settle as the minister of any parish. Rather he became an itinerant preacher and ev
1688 - 1772 (84 years)
Emanuel Swedenborg was a Swedish pluralistic-Christian theologian, scientist, philosopher and mystic. He became best known for his book on the afterlife, Heaven and Hell .Swedenborg had a prolific career as an inventor and scientist. In 1741, at 53, he entered into a spiritual phase in which he began to experience dreams and visions, notably on Easter Weekend, on 6 April 1744. His experiences culminated in a "spiritual awakening" in which he received a revelation that Jesus Christ had appointed him to write The Heavenly Doctrine to reform Christianity. According to The Heavenly Doctrine, the ...
1950 - Present (71 years)
Rowan Douglas Williams, Baron Williams of Oystermouth, is a Welsh Anglican bishop, theologian and poet. He was the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, a position he held from December 2002 to December 2012. Previously the Bishop of Monmouth and Archbishop of Wales, Williams was the first Archbishop of Canterbury in modern times not to be appointed from within the Church of England.
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite was a Greek author, Christian theologian and Neoplatonic philosopher of the late 5th to early 6th century, who wrote a set of works known as the Corpus Areopagiticum or Corpus Dionysiacum.
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